Because small-town diners can’t be beat. Florence, Alabama, a well-scrubbed town overlooking the Tennessee River, isn’t retro in that faux-Mayberry sort of way. It’s the real deal. And so is Trowbridge’s, an eight-stool lunch counter where, in 1918, Paul Trowbridge began churning and scooping orange-pineapple ice cream. Ask for their trademark egg-and-olive sandwich, and someone will toast it for you in a stainless-steel press. If you order a white-bread banana sandwich, you get a choice of mayo or peanut butter—or both.
Because everybody loves a hot bath. The historic mountain town of Hot Springs has a new way to take the waters: the recently reopened Quapaw Baths & Spa, a 1922 Spanish-colonial mansion with a mosaic-tiled central dome and seven private soaking rooms. Also in the town center is the Fordyce Bathhouse, a 1915 spa that now serves as a museum, complete with a restored marble lobby, gymnasium, and even the original billiards parlor.
Because South Beach will always be sexy. Miami has outdone itself once again: a 26,000-square-foot rooftop nightclub—one of the largest in the Americas—has just opened atop the new oceanfront Gansevoort South Hotel, Spa & Residences. Called Plunge, the over-the-top playground features chandelier-lit cabanas, an elevated 110-foot-long pool, a dozen palm trees, and a granite bar. The highlight is the view: to the west, the city skyline; to the east, the vast Atlantic.
Because rap and roti make a very Hotlanta. “Honestly, I didn’t plan on doing it,” says rap musician Chris “Ludacris” Bridges of his decision to create Straits with chef Chris Yeo, in Atlanta’s Midtown neighborhood. “But I was blown away by Chris’s use of spices—plus, what better way to be hands-on in your hometown than bringing something it’s never seen before.” The menu is a mix of Asian-influenced small plates, with a nod to Singaporean dishes, such as roti prata with minced beef, and seafood in a coconut curry. Ludacris’s favorite dish?The “Kung Pao lollipops” in a red-jalapeño sauce.
Because the good old boys are still drinking whiskey and rye. Long before the settlers of Kentucky put corn mash into their copper stills and called it bourbon, the Scots and Irish of the Eastern seaboard were using an Old-World grain: rye. An essential ingredient in the classic Manhattan cocktail, this original American whiskey is now making a comeback in the heart of Bourbon Country in the form of excellent aged ryes such as Rittenhouse, Van Winkle, and Sazerac. To taste it at the source, visit Heaven Hill Distilleries, which makes Rittenhouse. Buffalo Trace Distillery is the place for Sazerac and Van Winkle.
Because New Orleans is getting back on track. Take the historic St. Charles streetcar: it came to a standstill after Hurricane Katrina, but the trolley is once again winding over 13.2 miles, from the edge of the French Quarter, through the Garden District, and on to the Riverbend—as it has for more than 150 years. It is, as residents say, the “Streetcar Named Inspire.”
7 of 12Tourism Division of Mississippi Development Authority
Because who doesn’t love a county fair? Held annually in central Mississippi during the last week in July, the 119-year-old Neshoba County Fair is a study in Americana: there are harness races, corn dogs, fresh-squeezed lemonade, a Ferris wheel, and plenty of old-fashioned tree-stump politicking. Everyone from state senators to Ronald Reagan has dropped by.
Because Greensboro is going green. The 147-room Proximity Hotel is one of the first hotels to aim for LEED Platinum status, the highest rating in sustainable design and construction from the U.S. Green Building Council. The structure, which uses about 45 percent less energy and 33 percent less water than comparable properties, has solar panels, heat-deflecting plants on the roof, and a regenerative-drive elevator.
9 of 12South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
Because of its untouched islands. Just south of Charleston Harbor, tiny Morris Island is probably the last undeveloped spot on the South Carolina coast. The site of a Civil War battle (dramatized in the film Glory), the island will be put under permanent conservation easement this summer, the result of a successful public land trust campaign. Then, the habitat for osprey, blue herons, bald eagles, and two endangered species—the piping plover and the loggerhead sea turtle—will be preserved for hikers and bird-watchers for years to come.
Because even cowgirls need to shop. The epicenter of country music is going glam: Nashville royalty Faith Hill, Carrie Underwood, and LeAnn Rimes were among the first in line at the city’s coolest new boutique, H. Audrey. Owner Holly Williams (Hank’s granddaughter) appointed her loftlike shop with French antiques and stocked it with everything from Rick Owens to Alexander McQueen and Helmut Lang—a far cry from cowboy boots and rhinestone jeans.
Because you don’t have to be 22 to get excited about Austin’s music scene. Known as a mecca for the indie–music set (thanks to the annual South by Southwest festival in March), Austin now has a venue for Bach, Mozart, and Stravinsky as well. On the edge of Lady Bird Lake, the Long Center for the Performing Arts houses the city’s ballet company and symphony orchestra. The performance hall, designed by Nelsen Partners and Zeidler Partnership Architects, is in tune with Austin’s unconventional spirit—70 percent of the structure was made from recycled materials, including the gigantic concrete ring that encircles the central building like a halo. On the lineup this summer: Austin’s Chamber Music Festival, the Austin Shakespeare Festival, and free weekend symphony performances on the public terrace.